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City of Cambridge Modifies COVID-19 Case Reporting Amid Nursing Home Tests

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The Cambridge Public Health Department will make an aggregate count of all confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths in the city available online, including Cambridge residents living in nursing homes, the city announced Tuesday.

CPHD will provide a breakdown on the city’s website between cases that have occurred in a nursing home and those in the wider city. Previously, Cambridge reported these two counts separately.

In addition, Cambridge nursing facility workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 will not be included in counts unless CPHD can confirm that they are residents of the city.

These measures come off the heels of a city project piloted last week by the Broad Institute, which focused on rapidly testing those who live and work in Cambridge’s seven nursing homes.

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“This rapid testing program has the potential to protect Cambridge residents living in our nursing homes and effectively and efficiently determine positive cases,” Cambridge Commissioner of Public Health Assaad J. Sayah said in an April 10 press release.

Experts have identified senior care centers as particularly vulnerable to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, both providing conditions for spreading the disease rapidly and housing populations with high mortality risk. The virus has infected swaths of nursing centers’ staff and members globally.

As of April 13, the Broad Institute’s testing revealed that 203 staff members and institutional residents of Cambridge’s nursing homes have tested positive. On the same day, the CPHD announced six more deaths in the city. All six were nursing home affiliates.

"I am deeply saddened to report these deaths, and extend my deepest sympathies to the family and friends of these individuals," Claude A. Jacob, director of the CPHD, said in a Monday press release.

The first death in Cambridge due to COVID-19 complications was announced by the city on March 29.

Jacob said he hopes that by continuing “surveillance testing” in senior care centers, the city "can rapidly identify positive cases and break the chain of transmission in these facilities."

CPHD does not currently know how many facility residents tested positive, were hospitalized, or are experiencing severe symptoms. The department will not provide a breakdown of the 203 cases by nursing home.

As of April 14, there are 438 aggregate cases in Cambridge. 39 percent of cases are related to Cambridge nursing homes.

The Broad Institute will conduct a second round of testing in nursing homes at the end of this week, according to a city announcement.

—Staff writer Simon J. Levien can be reached at simon.levien@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @simonjlevien.

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